Scottish words: Chittering/Chittery-bite.

Frozen fountain in Beveridge Park

As you can see from this photograph it has been so cold here that everything has frozen up. It has been colder than Norway, Finland and the South Pole.

So we have all been chittering, which is the Scottish word for shivering. You might think it strange when I say that my worst attacks of chittering have always been in the summertime. The reason for this is that when you are wee, you seem to have a thing for paddling in water, and before you know it, you’re up to your neck in it. I’ve noticed that this happens to dogs too.

There’s no sense to it whatsoever because you know that you are either in the North Sea or a loch full of snow melt from the mountains. So it can’t be anything other than freezing and you’re going to end up chittering within about 10 seconds of hitting the water.

Luckily your mum will have come prepared with a chittery-bite. This is something nice for you to eat – a sandwich or a cake or maybe chocolate. Anything for you to get your teeth wrapped around and before long, you will have stopped chittering and your mum has saved you from hypothermia – again.

12 thoughts on “Scottish words: Chittering/Chittery-bite.

  1. To be fair it is summer at the South Pole just now so the temperature there will be balmy.
    My mum used to hand out biscuits for a chittery-bite.

    • Yes, I think most wee ones would expect something nice and sweet as a chittery-bite. West of Scotland mothers could always be relied on in that way, however, it did our teeth no favours.

  2. Love the new website–congratulations on the move and the makeover. I’ve been chittering away here in Colorado too–snow on the ground since November! That never happens.

    Like the pic of the frozen fountain, though.

    • Thank-you. We have just got rid of the snow, we had it for nearly a month which is unheard of here. It tends not to lie long when you are as close to the sea as we are. The ice was the worst though. Scary.

      The curlers and ice hockey players enjoyed it.

  3. It was after school visits to the swimming baths in Whiteinch (West of Glasgow)that most of the class ate the chittering bites prepared by our Mums. These mostly consisted of bread & butter sandwiches. Aye, even in wartime Mum could be relied upon to come up with homemade jam or jelly. If you were very lucky it could be cheese. Oh, Luxury,luxury.

    • John Faith,
      I know Whiteinch but just because that’s where the Clyde tunnel is. That’s mums for you, determined to feed the weans whatever’s going on. In my day it was mainly biscuits which were used as chittery bites. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  4. Dad used to get me a packet of crisps for my “chittering bite” after my swimming lesson at the baths.
    Wasn’t Whiteinch an open air baths in the 50’s?
    Great memories, thanks

    • Gail Robinson,
      I don’t think Whiteinch baths were open air, it probably just felt like it! I found this photo on Flickr it looks like more modern bits have been tacked on to an older building. I lived near there until I was 5 and moved away in 1964 but have no memories of the baths or steamies. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.


      • Hi
        Picked this up when trying to explain to others in Wales what a chittering bite was . Thanks for all the examples you all quote, they brought back lots of memories. The baths at white inch were indoors certainly in the early 50s I joined the Arlington late 50s and I was 12 before I could swim. Used to love the Whitey Park with the yachts on the pond . Ah the memories of a 70 yr old expat!

        • Frank Collins,
          I just have vague memories of Alexandra Parade Park in Dennistoun, we moved from there when I was 5. I went back for the first time in 50 years just a few months ago and was surpised at how big the park is, it even has a 9 hole golf course in it. It’s amazing how many good parks there are in Glasgow. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  5. What a pleasant surprise to discover your site this morning. I often use the term “chittering bite” for a wee sweet treat for my husband to eat to tide him over till suppertime. We emigrated from Scotland many years ago and so many of these old phrases just resurface from time to time. I decided this morning to do a wee bit research and see just how it originated. I enjoyed reading your explanation and all the many comments submitted by other readers. Thank you.

    • Helen Eade,
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. I’m presuming from your email address that you live in Canada now. I think sometimes that old words hang on longer among people who have left ‘home’. In my schooldays we would probably have been given a row by a teacher if they heard us using Scots words, but I hope nowadays they are more sensible and realise they should be treasured.


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